The West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care completed its first decade by helping a record number of patients accurately communicate their individual wishes for medical treatment.
Created in 2002, the center coordinates advance directives such as medical powers of attorney and living wills and medical orders such as do-not-resuscitate cards and POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) forms. Under the direction of Dr. Alvin Moss and with funding support from the state Department of Health and Human Resources, the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care has earned a reputation as a national leader in palliative care.
“Research confirms that the vast majority of West Virginians prefer to die peacefully and with dignity, not connected to machines and tubes,” noted Moss, who is a faculty member at the WVU School of Medicine, where the center is housed. “We’re proud to work with health care providers and residents around our state to ensure that people receive the treatment they want — no more, no less — near the end of life.”
In terms of encouraging people to declare their health care wishes, 2012 was the Center for End-of-Life Care’s most successful year ever. A total of 88,704 advance directives and medical orders were distributed upon request in 2012, an increase of more than 4,000 from 2011’s record total.
“The 2012 figure is more than double the number of forms distributed in 2002,” Moss said. “In fact, last year marked the third consecutive year in which we have distributed in excess of 80,000 forms.”
The POST form represents more than half that number. It converts a patient’s wishes into medical orders and is an incredibly effective tool for physicians to ensure that their patients’ end-of-life wishes are respected. It is recommended only for seriously ill patients in cases where the health care provider would not be surprised if the patient died within one year.
“Our latest survey, conducted in 2010, showed that three-quarters of West Virginians would rather live a shorter amount of time to avoid pain, suffering, and being kept alive on machines,” Dr. Moss said. “That figure has been remarkably consistent over the past decade, and the POST form is one way to ensure that people’s wishes are communicated.”
Beginning this year, health care providers have an additional resource to use when treating patients who may not be able to communicate for themselves. The West Virginia e-Directive Registry is a secure online database maintained through the West Virginia Health Information Network that allows quick access to accurate information regarding a person’s advance directives and medical orders as they near the end of life.
During 2012, the forms of 13,410 people were submitted to the Registry. The goal for this year is to ensure that physicians, hospitals and other health care facilities throughout the state have access to the information. Call 1-877-209-8086 or e-mail cjamison@ hsc.wvu.edu to get more information.
Forms are available at www.wvendoflife.org.